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Hurricane Daniel

Direct hit
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The closest big city to us is Honolulu which is 170 miles away and on a different island.  What that means is that there's no major source for accurate local news.  So when we heard a vague report about a hurricane headed towards the Big Island, we immediately got online to find more accurate info.

Sure enough, a giant hurricane was projected to pass directly over our house.  Not a close pass, a direct hit.  It had at one point been a category 4 hurricane and almost made it to category 5.  It was also classified as an annular hurricane.  Apparently that means it retains its winds longer than usual and can be more dangerous than typical hurricanes.  Only 1-3% of hurricanes are ever classified as annular hurricanes.

When we first heard about the hurricane, it had been downgraded to Category 1.  That means 74-95 mph winds, 4-5 foot storm surge and lots of rain.  Category 1 is a lot better than Category 4 but it's still pretty darned scary, especially with a direct hit as they were predicting.  That was on Monday night and the hurricane was scheduled to arrive on Thursday afternoon.

I found that the best source for timely, accurate, easy to understand hurricane information was Wikipedia.  There's even a dedicated page for each active hurricane.  I checked the updates regularly.  The local radio also started broadcasting storm warnings.  Luckily, the news was usually good.  Over the next couple days the hurricane was degraded to a tropical storm, then a tropical depression and eventually to a remnant low.  We never even got any good rain from it.  We could have used a little rain.  Of course we'd prefer the rain without all the flooding and wind damage from a hurricane.

It's tempting to think that the mountain behind us will help protect us from hurricanes because we're on the leeward side of the island.  The truth is actually the opposite.  A hurricane is over 50,000 feet tall while the island's two mountain peaks are under 14,000 feet.  Basically, the mountains are just a little speed bump compared to a hurricane.  According to the local civil defense, the mountains can squeeze and channel the wind so it comes whistling over the mountain even faster than if it had hit head on.  Regardless of the mountains, a hurricane is circular so the winds are headed one way as it approaches and the opposite direction as it departs.  There's no such thing as leeward side when it comes to a hurricane.

Hurricane Iniki A direct hit from a Category 4 hurricane would be devastating.  Hurricane Iniki hit Kauai on September 11, 1992 as a Category 4 hurricane, destroying housing across the island and leaving more than 7,000 people homeless.  Every radio station was destroyed so there was no news for several days.  After four weeks, only 20% of the island's power was restored.  One of the things that bothers me the most is the damage to the agricultural sector.  High winds uprooted trees and generally destroyed crops.

If a large hurricane hit us, our house would almost certainly be destroyed.  At minimum, I suspect all the glass windows and tin roof would be destroyed.  The greenhouse, gone.  The barn roof, once it's built, gone.  All our various outbuilding and any equipment that couldn't be stored some place safe would simply disappear, blown away in the wind.  Many of the macadamia nut trees would be uprooted and destroyed.  The year's coffee crop would be lost.  The coffee stumps might survive and, after heavy pruning, be able to recover in two years.  That would mean at least two years with no farm income.  On the bright side, Kona coffee prices would almost certainly shoot up.  But that would only be because nobody had any coffee trees left.

Our barn basement would probably survive the storm well.  That's probably where we'd stash the goats, chickens, dogs, cats, rabbits and whatever other animals we had at the time.  I'm not sure how we'd make them all get along while we were off hiding at the local storm shelter.  We could probably separate the animals with barriers made out of all the other junk we'd have to stack in there like furniture, tools, farm equipment and animal feed.  Of course whatever coffee parchment we had at the time would get stashed in there too.  With coffee prices about to shoot up, I'd hope to have lots of coffee parchment on hand.

All Hurricanes The good news is that hurricanes in Hawaii actually aren't all that common.  They have and will happen again but there's a reasonable chance that we may never see a direct hit.  This picture maps all recorded cyclone tracks.  Florida gets plenty of hurricanes but not nearly as many as Japan.  Hawaii gets fewer hurricanes than Florida.  That doesn't mean we don't need to be prepared, it just means the risk is tolerable.  Hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, volcanoes , wild fires... if you can think of a natural disaster, chances are good that Hawaii can experience it.  It's payback for all those days of perfect weather.

Hurricane Daniel




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